By Ariella Bracha Waldinger
In last week’s Torah portion, which begins the 5th book of Moses called Devarim, we read that Moses’ life is drawing to an end. I cannot imagine the sadness that must have gripped the Israelites, as their beloved teacher and leader is about to depart the world. I find myself getting emotional from reading it. I also find myself longing for our Jewish nation to have a leader and guide of Moses’ stature today, in order to shift everything in the right direction and bring our long awaited Messiah and Our Holy Temple, of which we are now in mourning.
Just as I am becoming immersed in the grief over Moses’ departure, the Parsha shifts to the happy news that the Jewish people will enter the land of Israel after his passing. These enormous contrasting emotions serve, at least in my mind, to convey the greatness of the merit and privilege of COMING INTO THE LAND on the heels of his passing.
Rav Avraham Yitzchak haKohein Kook, OBM writes in the book, “OROT”: “Eretz Yisrael is not an external entity, an addition to the nation or a means to attain physical or even spiritual achievements. Eretz Yisrael is an integral part of the nation, inextricably bound to her inner existence. It is impossible to explain in a rational way.” Perhaps this is why so many Jews residing in the land have an irrational love for the Land. I feel it myself, as do many of my friends and for sure my holy husband.
“The Jews were returning to their long lost home. The Land of Israel had remained a dream for 210 years of exile in Egypt and 40 years of wandering in the desert. Now, they were about to recapture her and there was anticipation and hope in the air. In Eretz Yisrael, they would have unheard of opportunities they had been denied during their stay in Egypt and their desert journey. In Israel, they would have authentic expression as a nation and all that that implied, for only in Israel could the Jewish people be a completely unified nation.
It is at this juncture that Moshe expounds upon the teachings embedded in each of the previous four books of the Bible. Moshe conveys the deep messages of the Torah directives. He speaks of the tasks of Am Yisrael as a nation of diverse ideals. He speaks of certain groups having to deal entirely with spiritual matters while the majority would be entrusted with working in the physical world. Moshe knew that if they could absorb the principles of the Torah, they would successfully conquer the land, both physically and spiritually.
Moshe implored the people to merge, in order to enable the mundane to rise up and touch the divine, the spiritual to vitalize the physical, not only as individuals but as an entire nation. Moshe longed for them to understand that in order to fuse heaven and earth, the nation must be fully conscious of their abilities and responsibilities and be united.
These were Moshe’s final lessons: his messages for the life of the Jewish people and with these spoken words, he passed from the world. These vital teachings were to be our survival manual throughout history. Far from being the end, however, the Book of Devarim is just the beginning. True, it is the end of Moshe’s Torah, but it is the start of life for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. It is the prologue to the eternal story of Jewish history, of a nation who lived independently in their land, of a nation whose history was all part of a divine plan and of a nation assigned the tasks of revealing G-d’s Divine name in their actions and history.”
And there we have it, the straight facts from Moses, the greatest prophet of Israel—our redemption from Egypt was for the express purpose of residing in Eretz Yisrael, in order to fulfill our Divine mission and claim our birthright. If Moses taught it to the nation before his passing, it is equally binding today. As Gideon Weitzman so succinctly stated, “In the land of Israel, they would have authentic expression as a nation and all that that implied. “
May we merit to comprehend and absorb the deep messages of the Torah that Moses spoke in Devarim and follow through on them today, in order to claim our birthright in the Land of Israel, as loyal servants of the King of Kings. May we all join our nation in our beloved, sacred homeland to fulfill our task of revealing G-ds name and thus bring about the conclusion of our history with our rebuilt Temple, so we can end the intense mourning and turn it into intense joy!
With blessings, Ariella Bracha